Do I Care Who John Galt Is?

11 Jul

I just watched a very snarky video about Ayn Rand and how her writing still affects the modern GOP. As a Libertarian who has (gasp!) never read any of her works, I can say that she is both right–and wrong–at the same time.

The video was from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which I really love, despite Oliver representing a very left-wing stance that I completely disagree with. However, he provides well-researched and interesting topics that really get me thinking. In Oliver’s opinion, Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism” is a glorification of selfishness which shows the true nature of those who like her writings, conveniently ignoring the facts that she was pro-choice, thought President Reagan was worthless, and thought Native Americans should have no rights.

Objectivism is based on the idea that human knowledge and values are objective: they exist and are determined by the nature of reality, to be discovered by one’s mind, and are not created by the thoughts one has. Now Wikipedia goes into great and soaring detail on what that means, and frankly, I have trouble understanding even this high-level view. However, I do remember that Ayn Rand stated that you either agreed with her completely or not at all, so frankly, I don’t bother learning objectivist epistemology.

That being said, as much as Oliver and his team snarked the hell out of Rand for being selfish, I have to ask… “How much do you actually care about other people?” This is my main objection to modern liberal thought; they talk a great game about saving the world, saving these people, raising up these things… but when it comes down it, they actually do very little. Rand is pointing out that if you get out of your own damn way with silly little things like morals and government interference, you can achieve greatness. If you need help to accomplish this, you are dependent and therefore subject to what rules that help comes with.

Interestingly enough, this is very similar to what Friedrich Nietzsche said. That to become the best you can be, to be a “Superman,” you need to get beyond good and evil and create your morals based on your most inner most desires. Unlike Rand, I have read Nietzsche and find him nigh impossible to get through. Why his philosophy spread at all was because an editor took out the end of every chapter (where the really profound stuff is) of all his books and published it as an abridged version. The rest is just Fred bitching about how stupid all the other philosophers are for not getting this simple premise… that he only reveals at the end of the chapter.

I like both of these philosophies, even though I don’t follow either of them. (Oh, and by the way, neither did Rand or Nietzsche.) Because I believe like the movie Wall Street (1987) taught us, “Greed is Good.” I believe man is inherently selfish; that’s important for survival as a person and a species. However, this is where you add in some Tanya (Jewish mysticism) or Buddhism or Taoism; it’s important to be selfish, BUT you need to balance it with selflessness. From a practical perspective, if you support those around you, they’re more like to support you in the future, because they understand the need to have help in the lean times. Similarly, if you give away all your money to the poor, but now you have to live on the street, you’ve done neither the poor or yourself any good. You have given the poor only temporary relief, while preventing yourself from providing for them in future. The greatest good, and greatest feeling of reward, is when you balance the two impulses. Then you can be monetarily successful and rich in good deeds.

John Galt actually gives the heroes of Atlas Shrugged hints on how to be successful and to reach the promised land. So even Rand’s characters couldn’t do it alone. But as I said, I’ve never read her works, so I could be ridiculously simplifying things. Maybe one of you have read it and can clarify it for me? Please put it in the comments below.

3 Responses to “Do I Care Who John Galt Is?”

  1. Michael July 11, 2022 at 9:22 am #

    Interesting perspectives there… great post

  2. Crandew July 11, 2022 at 1:17 pm #

    That video was more anti-Rand propaganda than just snarky. Anthem is super short and we’ll worth the time, as well as the Virtue of Selfishness. Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead are amazing books, but much longer reads. You should give them a try if you have time.

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